Editor’s Note: This topic was also discussed on an NBC News New York Investigation that we were a part of!
Roblox is an immensely popular “game” on the web. The website boasts over 30 million unique views each month. Many sites compare it to Minecraft, but I don’t think those comparisons are valid. Roblox is less of a game in and of itself and more of a game creation system. Players are encouraged to create their own game experiences and share them with the public.
Sounds great right? Why in the world would parents need to be warned about it?
I was asked late last week to take a look at a story that was circulating around the internet. An Australian Rugby player reported that he witnessed child predators hunting children and encouraging them to participate in (digital) sexual behaviors. He didn’t provide video or screenshots, so there was plenty of reason to question his claims. In fact, Snopes even declared that his accusations were “Unproven” after their own research.
In an effort to investigate his claims on my own I created my own account on the service and logged into the game. I logged into various games and sat watching other players’ behavior within the digital space. Everything started fairly innocently. I saw kids trying to organize small groups to role-play as families. I saw other kids fishing or running around randomly. But, then I clicked into a game that was called “Shower Simulator” and saw a bunch of characters… well… showering in a large open shower room.
None of that compares to when I walked into a private party that was hosted in one of the city simulator games. The party included up to fifty people and was held in what could only be described as a private home. The parties took place in custom-designed houses that included multiple dance floors and rooms FULL of beds. In several of the parties that I stumbled into there were always multiple people on each of them using various in-game emotes to simulate something (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a game of UNO).
That wasn’t all I saw. I saw dozens of players with names designed to express sexual intent while ducking whatever filters the system has in place.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend Roblox as a game for children to play on their own. It is simply too easy for innocent children to see stuff that they shouldn’t. I don’t know that any of these players were actually child predators as opposed to just clueless kids, but the fact is that no one can ever really know about that until it is too late.
With that said, I recognize the value that the game has. The options for creation are there and there is a lot of learning to be had. I have to encourage you to play together if you decide to take advantage of those opportunities. This way you can help shield them from bad actors and encourage good behavior.